Paying it forward: Inskeep leaves $4 million for local scholarships

Top photo: Bev Tietjen of the San Juan Island Community Foundation announces the late Jerry Inskeep
Top photo: Bev Tietjen of the San Juan Island Community Foundation announces the late Jerry Inskeep's bequest of $4 million for college scholarships for local high school graduates. Middle photo: Virginia Otto of the Mullis Community Senior Center tells about the savings in the island coupon book, a fund-raiser for the center. Bottom photo: Jackie Wolf of Islands Oil Spill Association invites volunteers. IOSA received a grant of $1,900 for new protected strategies and safety training for oil spill responders.
— image credit: Richard Walker

Jerry Inskeep Jr. couldn't afford to go to college, but a gentle man saw his potential and paid his tuition.

Inskeep never forgot the man's generosity and, after graduating from Yale and establishing a successful mutual fund company, devoted his life to paying it forward.

"Jerry's hope was to make that kind of difference in other's lives and I am proud to say he has done just that," foundation board member Bev Tietjen said at the foundation's annual Breakfast of Champions today at Mullis Center.

Inskeep, who died Aug. 16 from liver cancer, bequeathed $4 million to the San Juan Island Community Foundation for college scholarships for local graduating seniors.

After Tietjen's tribute to Inskeep, there were many wet eyes in the center. All in attendance stood and gave Inskeep a posthumous standing ovation.

"Because of his kindness, his legacy will continue on in perpetuity," Tietjen said.

The breathtaking announcement capped a morning of grant-giving — a total of $66,883 to 27 non-profits. In addition, foundation board member Pamela Gross read the names of recipients of other grants awarded during the year from various funds managed by the foundation — $727,610 in giving to 29 local organizations. Six special awards totalling $12,800 were announced as well.

"In tough economic times, the citizens of our very special community have come out in force to help our local non-profits and public institutions," foundation chairman Charles Anderson said.

"While many areas of the country saw a 40 percent decline in charitable contributions, our local donors have stepped up to the challenge, allowing the foundation to significantly increase total grants above last year's $700,000.

Inskeep, 78, graduated from Yale University in 1953. He served as a first lieutenant in the Navy.

With his business partner, Jim Rippey, Inskeep founded the Columbia Management Company, an investment advisory and mutual fund management company, in Portland, Ore. He quietly provided scholarships for students in California, Oregon and Washington.

A letter from a beneficiary who asked to remain anonymous paid tribute to Inskeep in The Journal and after he died. A portion of that letter was shared at the Breakfast of Champions.

"There has not been a passing day I have not walked the streets of this town, and wondered if I was staring eye to eye with the anonymous individual that gifted me with such a precious and rare opportunity of a full-ride scholarship," the writer wrote.

"As years have passed, I am still unable to find the appropriate words to express my utmost gratitude, let alone had the chance to thank this quiet giver in person.

"Jerry Inskeep Jr. is a man who opened up his heart and offered life-changing opportunities for individuals, just like me, to have the chance of a college education.

"So many aspects of my life would not be if it were not for this kind-hearted man, and with this it gives me great hope for this world we live in ... Every day of my life will be spent giving back to this wonderful community, as Jerry has quietly taught me through his gentle, giving spirit."

An updated version of this story will be published later.

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